It takes a brave man to make Lebanon's first gay-themed commercial feature, and while there's too much musicvid influence in "Out Loud," helmer Samer Daboul and his cast are to be commended for their conviction and the palpable camaraderie onscreen.

It takes a brave man to make Lebanon’s first gay-themed commercial feature, and while there’s too much musicvid influence in “Out Loud,” helmer Samer Daboul and his cast are to be commended for their conviction and the palpable camaraderie onscreen. Daboul’s script needs greater discipline, but the characters, consisting of six friends, gay and straight, wanting to forge a new fellowship, have a winsome appeal. Home release, if it happens at all, will be an uphill battle, though gay fests will be far more welcoming.

Fests and ancillary can pair screenings with Daboul’s 50-minute “Out Loud: The Documentary,” tracing the troubled production, which at one point required military protection from outraged locals and forced post-production to be completed in Los Angeles. Unquestionably, knowledge of the struggle to get the pic made will add to audience appreciation.

Four guys maintain a close friendship: Gregarious Jason (Rudy Moarbes) lives alone in a large house, orphaned by the car-bomb assassination of his parents. Louis (Jad Hadid) is prone to catatonic moments ever since his break-up with Nada (Gabriella Glont El-Murr). Guitar-playing Elvis (Michel Sarkiss) runs drugs for his criminal father but wants to get out of the game, and Rami (Ali Rhayem) has to leave the country now that his family knows he’s gay.

They’re all together for Jason’s birthday, to which he invites Nathalie (Eliane Kerdy), a woman he meets online. She’s playful, easygoing and warm, the right feminine touch needed in this masculine gathering. When Rami’s b.f., Ziad (Jean Kobrously), shows up bloodied from an encounter with Rami’s homophobic cousins, the supportive group of six engages in a long night celebrating friendship and decrying intolerance.

Pic’s strength comes from the way Daboul presents this alternate “menage” as a loving group unconstrained by sanctimonious conditioning; they’re hardly the only six like this in Lebanon, but the point “Out Loud” makes is that the fanaticism of a vocal, closed-minded mob is stifling a new generation whose values aren’t dictated from a bully pulpit. The gay story is part and parcel with the others, not overwhelming the narrative, although it remains a crucial element.

Goofy moments provide a sense of humor, which goes a long way when conversations turn platitudinous. Thesps better convey their emotions via gestures and facial expressions than dialogue, which should be snappier, and occasionally feels like the kind of latenight pseudo-philosophical, “We’ll be friends forever!” chatter one might hear in a freshman dorm room. When there is a good zinger, it’s smothered by a surfeit of blather.

Tech credits are strong considering the production difficulties. A musicvid moment with Jason singing and the others standing in profile has no place, and editing feels too smallscreen. Music pushes emotions in the direction of the sugar bowl.

Out Loud

Lebanon

Production

A Phoenix Eye Pictures production. Produced by Samer Daboul. Executive producers, Daboul, Cedric Troadec. Directed, written by Samer Daboul.

Crew

Camera (color), Vicken Jilikian; editor, Fares Khalil; music, Christopher Brady; production designer, Gabriella El-Murr; sound, Eric Dosch, Shady El Basha, Eli Alhaj; associate producers, Wissam Tannoury, Noel Ziade, Rudy Moarbes, Joe Adem; assistant director, Raffi Casparian; casting, Daboul. Reviewed on DVD, Rome, May 26, 2011. (In Cannes Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Rudy Moarbes, Ali Rhayem, Jad Hadid, Michel Sarkiss, Eliane Kerdy, Jean Kobrously, Gabriella Glont El-Murr, Michel Jemayl, Wissam Tannoury, Tony Baainy, Fahim Baainy. (Arabic, English dialogue)

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